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Two new bills could put a dent in technology’s ‘homework gap’

It’s only taken a year since the onset of the pandemic, but serious help is finally coming for students and their parents who haven’t had reliable internet bandwidth for distance learning.

First, a bill passed in the dying days of the Trump administration will bring $50 discounts on internet access for lower-income households. Second, the Biden administration’s first major bill will let schools and libraries share connectivity beyond their own premises.

Combined, they could make a sizable dent in a problem that educational advocates identified as the “homework gap” years before the coronavirus pandemic aimed a harsh spotlight at it.

“The homework gap exists in rural America, urban America, and everywhere in between,” said the Federal Communications Commission’s Jessica Rosenworcel in April 2019, almost two years before President Biden elevated her from FCC commissioner to acting FCC chair.

The first phase of help arrived with the Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Trump signed on December 27. That mammoth spending bill allocated $3.2 billion for an Emergency Broadband Benefit that will bring $50 monthly discounts ($75 on tribal lands) for internet access to cash-strapped Americans.

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